Writing feeds my cruising soul


A few months ago, I kissed the back of an envelope for good luck before dropping it into a mailbox in Singapore. Tucked inside was a publishing contract with my signature on it. Although it’s been years since I had my first paycheck as a freelance writer, I’ve only now had confidence to fill in the “occupation” blank on forms with WRITER. So to have a fellow blogger, Kim from SV Britican, tap me to follow her post on a tour of writer’s blogs is the kind of request that makes me sit back with a smile of wonder and amazement. Thank you, Kim, for the recognition!

What am I currently working on?

I’m divided between three different types of writing projects. The immediately obvious one is this blog, an evolution I never anticipated when I started it more than seven (!) years ago. The second is freelance writing magazine articles, which I’ve been growing slowly, marketing nonfiction pieces to boating, travel, and lifestyle magazines. Most exciting for me right now: I’m working with two other cruising parents, Sara Johnson and Michael Robertson, on a guide to voyaging with kids to be published by L&L Pardey Books (pinch me!).

these are my helpers. they’re super helpful. can’t you tell?

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

You can’t swing a cat o’ nine tails in an anchorage without hitting a cruiser with a blog. It’s not a bad thing… during our pre-cruising years I would have loved such a resource pool to draw dreams and practicalities from. Overwhelmingly, these blogs are the record of a journey. My goal is to inspire others to choose the adventurous path:  to offer a window into the life, balanced with practical information, speaking plain truth from our experiences.

As a freelance writer, it depends on where I’m pitching: for sailing and adventurous living, I seek to have an honest voice, one that people can relate to and travel with vicariously (so, how am I doing?!).  There is a more  mechanical side of freelancing where I’m less concerned about differentiation, and simply want to be a quality content provider that editors love working with.

Why do I write what I do?

Writing has always been a way for me to process experiences, and share what I learn. I’m in my eighth year of writing as a way to externally process our cruising life, yet it’s really only been the last couple of years I felt I’ve had the space, miles, and personal experiences to be able to pull back and offer a broader view.

my first freelance writing assignment was the same month this photo was taken
my first freelance writing assignment was the same month this photo was taken

I want to support people who have the dream of cruising: families in particular. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear back from readers who have been helped or encouraged by what I’ve shared. I need to write, and I love our lifestyle, and by doing both together I’m finding happiness I never had in my prior professional life.

How does my writing process work?

I believe that 90% of writing is just putting your bum in the chair and setting fingers to keys. That’s certainly the way it is for me, yet I also have a notebook and pen as near constant companions. Sometimes the inspiration just hits, and I want to be able to grab it! Even if it drives Jamie a little crazy, because actually- I don’t have a notebook. I have many notebooks, and tend to leave them scattered around, then wonder with mild frantic distraction why I can’t find the one I want when I need it.

Omnipresent notebook at left.

Of course, there are times when our environment makes the fundamental butt-in-seat difficult. My workspace is a small desk in the aft (master) cabin, which is not always peaceful and sometimes downright chaotic. Like today, when there are a half dozen shipyard crew on board adding the background cacophony of power tools and hammering.

So I pack up a bag, and shift to a spot near the shipyard office wifi. This often means I have children of the crew acting as curious helpers, shown in “extra helpful” ode in the photo higher up. They are sweet kids, but kind of distracting. Here at PSS Satun, have the rare luxury of an air conditioned and usually quiet room.. Of course, it comes with another kind of distraction: KITTENS! If you follow our Facebook page, you know the girls have been taking care of a motherless litter found in the lumber piles.

I’d like to tap Diane Selkirk and Sara Johnson as the next stops on the writer’s blog tour.

Diane Selkirk headshotDiane has been my writing doula. She has nudged me, encouraged me, and had faith that I didn’t have in myself  I’m not sure I’d be IN a “writer’s blog tour” without her support! Diane has interviewed astronauts and Olympians, learned about laying up fiberglass and making ukuleles, canoed down a northern fur trade river and spent time on a police boat looking for yacht thieves – all for the sake of a good story.

Sara JohnsonSara is another sailor who loves to write. We share the home waters of Puget Sound, and traveled many of the same miles in North America and the South Pacific. She especially enjoys writing about sailboat cruising, traveling with children, and all other aspects of life afloat – and how she does it all while living with Type 1 diabetes.

Writer or reader, you know I love it when you click through to find this on the Sailfeed website.

29 Responses

  1. Just wonderful! Congratulation Behan! I may be back in Blighty and enduring another early morning commute but evidently my reading material is vastly more inspiring than my fellow commuters’ as I’m the only one smiling (at your lovely blog) Love the pics, love the stories, just a teensy bit envious of you making it work for 7 years and still going strong!! x

    1. I know that “smiling-to-myself” moment on public transportation. I bet you made the day of someone around you, I think smiling rubs off! Thank you for the kind words.

  2. Behan, your words are touching me too in Blighty! I hope I’ll be able to get hold of your book over here! We are getting close to our boat purchase and then can start our own count down till we slip and set off. Your writing is wonderful. I feel I know your family so well! For me you strike a great balance. More more more!!

    1. Emily- laugh with me for a moment: thanks to you (and Mo, above) I had to Google “Blighty”! Thank you so much for the lovely feedback. The countdown to leaving can be quite a ride- hang on!

  3. Thanks for the inspiration. I find myself always posting in Facebook as posting on the wordpress site is just outside of my comfort zone, not to mention the glitches that need to be sorted out!
    Have a wonderful on the hard experience! Much love,

  4. First, congratulations on the book deal with L&L Pardey Books! That’s great news! And second, thank you for sharing the fact that Totem is littered with notebooks . . . it’s always nice to know I’m not alone in my habits.

    1. Haha- love it Stephanie- you too eh? I keep telling myself I’ll declutter the notebooks, but there’s always something written down that I can’t get rid of yet…

  5. Well done, Behan! Well done making your passions into a living, and well done pulling back the curtain and sharing a bit of behind-the-scenes footage of your writing life and aspirations. Your honest voice and family-focused content is what keeps us reading and following. Looking forward to seeing the book take shape!

  6. Back when my daughter was working on boats she ran across your blog and guided me toward it, as we had something in common… mother-hood. I have been following ever since. I look forward to reading your books (yeah, I think you have more than one in you.)

  7. Behan,
    Just wanted to say I love keeping up with you guys on your blog and FB! Greg and I are back home in the States for now, but buying our own boat and going out cruising is definitely in our plans. I do really appreciate a lot of the technical, mechanical and financial information that you put into the blog, as it does very much help us to learn vicariously and to know what we need to think about when we are able to head out there.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Aw, thank YOU! I truly look forward to that day we get to catch up with you two again, and how cool if it was finding you on your boat? And honestly Tiffany, I love the travel writing from you and Greg. On top of it, you’ve got a *wealth* of your own knowledge to share! I look forward to reading more as your adventurous life continues to unfold.

  8. Great article Behan! I can’t tell you how helpful I’ve found your articles…in fact, if it wasn’t for you I think I’d have a head full of grey hair. Especially with the homeschooling side of things – I was freaking out…but you’ve paved a way for us to follow and I can’t thank you enough. Your book sounds amazing and I’m sure it will become a staple for every cruising family out there. Finally, thank you for participating in the blog tour – it’s great to hear your insights on the writing side of things. Big smiles, Kim

    1. Thanks Kim! And, thanks so much for asking me to share about my writing. It’s been an journey. I was struck by the similarities in our path, actually… I always loved writing, but got an MBA instead. So glad that I’ve helped you with info and staved off that grey! <3

  9. Behan, I always love reading your blog and it was probably you more than any other that inspired me to start writing our own sailing blog about 5 years ago, You set standards I aspire to. Like you I love writing so hopefully i have found my own voice which gives a different view on sailing. Kim off Britican is moored just behind us for winter and we have found wonderful friends in her and her family. Carry on writing and carry on inspiring me and all the others who read your blog and have yet to do so,

    1. Mark, thanks so much for the kind words- I’m honored! I think you have absolutely found your voice with a unique humorous slant on ‘the life’. Wish I could just snap my fingers and show up on the dock in MdR for sundowners with the Cygnus and Britican crews!

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